“What is this room?” said Streeter Seidell, peering around Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom. “Why do you have this room? This looks like the Beauty and the Beast ballroom.”
On April 17, the Grand Ballroom was not hosting a cohort of singing and dancing tableware. Rather, it was filled with students waiting to watch Student Entertainment Events’ annual spring comedy show, featuring Seidell, Alex Moffat and Vanessa Bayer.
Bayer, the show’s headliner, was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 2010 to 2017, when she left after seven seasons, becoming the show’s longest serving female cast member. Moffat made his SNL debut in 2016 and has been there ever since. Seidell, a writer for SNL, is also known for his work with the comedy website CollegeHumor, where he started in 2004 as one of the site’s key contributors.
“Certainly looks like it’s made by IKEA,” said Seidell, referencing the black collapsible stage SEE assembled at the side of the ballroom. He was transfixed with the room, the stage and the seating arrangements. The presence of a lone golden balloon stuck on the ceiling above the stage only furthered Seidell’s bewilderment. Students, likely equally confused by the setup of the Grand Ballroom that night, loved his commentary.
It’s not surprising that Seidell, who helped build popularity for a comedic website catering to college students, was such a hit. He was also the only act that night to perform a typical stand-up routine.
Moffat arrived onstage, accompanied by Tag Team’s “Whoomp! (There It Is).” He gazed out at the crowd with a huge smile, pointing at members of the audience and then giving them two thumbs up. He did this for about a minute, which doesn’t seem long, but given the simplicity of that bit, it felt long. It was the first of many niche bits he fully committed himself to that evening.
He quickly jumped into character as a German stand-up who likes to perform bad impressions. Moffat doesn’t do anything halfway and doesn’t explain what’s happening. About seven minutes into the German routine, which could have been in real or fake German (I don’t speak German, but it sounded legit to me), he broke character.
“Sometimes, depending on how it’s going, I’ll do that bit for 25 minutes,” he said with a sly smile.
When Bayer arrived it was hard to know what to expect. Like Moffat, she isn’t a typical stand-up comedian, and is more inclined toward longer onstage bits involving characters rather than the “setup, punch line” routine.
She told stories about her time living in Chicago after college, where she worked as an actress mostly doing commercials. She spoke about one of her first auditions for a Planters peanut ad where they were looking to hire an “extremely unattractive woman.” Luckily for her ego, but unluckily for her wallet, she didn’t get the job.
Bayer performed a number of impressions, including her famous Miley Cyrus. She also did impressions of every cast member from Friends, which seemed to be just one really good Rachel impression surrounded by questionable — but still funny — impressions of the rest of the cast.
There were two videos during Bayer’s performance. One was an episode of her web series “Sound Advice,” where she plays an unconventional media coach who, in the episode she showed, is talking to Drake about his music. She ended her routine by showing a real video of herself at age 24 earnestly answering questions as part of a profile for a dating service.
Justin Turner, a freshman bioengineering major, stood with friends after the show.
“The [bit about the] red-haired guy, that was really funny,” he said, referencing a story Seidell told about his erratic freshman year roommate, who once drank a bottle of Robitussin and promptly fell asleep for two days.
The Grand Ballroom, moments ago filled with laughter, quieted as the last of the students filed out. The IKEA stage was still standing, the lone golden balloon still peering out over the seats.